Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Family Institutional Memory

One of the things I learned about in Library School was Institutional Memory; what an organization knows to be true because of the people who work there. Often, if people share their knowledge, this memory is not too adversely affected by people leaving, but some of it will be. Fred, my former boss, was a World War 2 freak and knew a lot of random information that sometimes came in handy. It was necessary, but it was helpful.

A family has an institutional memory, too, because we know that grandma was really good with needlepoint and thus knew where all the thread stores were. Her sister was a great knitter and knew where all the yarn stores had been in their old neighborhood in Brooklyn. She knew that most of them were gone, and she certainly wasn't going to go back there when she visited New York (particularly since nobody we knew LIVED in Brooklyn anymore), but she'd known them once.
My father had an good memory. No, check that, my father had an obnoxiously good memory. I'm not sure if it was something he worked at, and I do know he abused drugs (mostly alcohol) that should have had a detrimental effect on his memory. If it did, we never noticed.

My father could see a movie once, and remember whole sections of dialogue. Me? Maybe, if I'm paying close attention, I'll remember dialogue. I can memorize something -- songs, music, poetry -- but I'll have to work at it, most likely. But that's not really what I'm talking about when I say "Family Institutional Memory."
Every family has a story, a sort of creation myth; a story they tell themselves that may or may not be true, but which represents how they see themselves fitting into the world.

OK, I don't know if EVERY family has this story, but I know mine does. My parents met at a US Out Of Central America Rally in D.C. Kind of perfect. My mom believed in politics and revolution. I think my father did too, but my father wasn't as involved as my mother. He was perfectly willing to be a cheerleader for the movement.
The Family Story becomes how you fit into the world, because it is how you figure out where your family fit in. My parents wanted to make the world a better place, but my mother was more devoted to this cause than my father. Perhaps she just believed that change was possible more than my father did, because her family had believed that change was possible. And that's how mom believes in therapy, and my father really didn't. He respected that other people do believe in therapy, but not for him.

I understand I may have completely misrepresented my father's beliefs, but he's dead, and that's part of my point. Everything I think he believed may now become, de facto, what he believes, because there are fewer people to tell me otherwise. How our family organized itself will become how I think it did, because fewer and fewer people will be around to tell me otherwise. Since I am the only child of my parents, and my cousins have spread out and were never too close to begin with, how could they tell me differently. They might have a different impression, but I suspect they would defer judgement to my mother and then to me.
Shit. This makes me the historian of the family now.
I'm not sure this is what I expected to have happen when my father died. But I'm pretty sure anything I expected to have happen was ill informed anyway. Anyone's presence is a layered thing, how it affects you depends on many things which are not completely within your control. Your memories aren't even completely within your control. What you remember now depends on what you believe is important, and what you believed was important at the time (which is why you remembered it in the first place) and both of those beliefs can change of over time, which can change how you remember something and what you remember that you know to be true, and what you remember which you think isn't quite what happened.
How does your family story change when pieces of it are lost? Does it really matter? Your family changes when parts of it change (when the uncle you didn't like divorces your aunt, the fabric of the family changes) so why shouldn't the story change with it? We revise a nation's history as we think differently of it, or we teach different perspectives of a country's history, why shouldn't the family history change as people leave, willingly or unwillingly (and YES, that is a euphemism for divorce). (lol)
The stories we tell ourselves and that we tell others will change over time. But still, the removal of one story teller means her stories are gone, and that changes how the rest of the stories are told.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Are We There Yet? (A Constitutional Crisis)

When does the President's behavior become A Constitutional Crisis?

When do you start looking at people on the street and saying, "What the fuck just happened?" When do they look back at you and say, "No, really? I know it's egregious!"
And when do we start doing anything about it?
What exactly would "doing anything about it" entail? When do we collectively wake up and say "NO! This is NOT normal, nor is acceptable!"

I think when we learn that the President is telling confidential information to foreign diplomats might be that time.

What? You don't feel it's time yet? You think he's just kidding us? You think he didn't really mean to register all the Muslims and deport all the illegal immigrants?

Guess what boys and girls! We've come to the Constitutional Crisis!!!

No. I'm not kidding.

Last week, I put up a blog section with links to the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee.

I'd intended to put a link to it on my Facebook page. I was that upset.
That was on Friday. I refrained from linking it to anything, because I decided it was too early...not necessary yet. I was being proactive by having the information yet, but perhaps I agreed with Erickson in the New York Times. Perhaps I was just another disappointed Hillary supporter. Perhaps I was just another liberal who was just dying to get rid of the Orange Ego in the White House.

No, I can't bring myself to call him the President. After he spent almost 8 years undermining President Obama, calling him a secret Muslim and denying that President Obama was a citizen (yeah, can we all have a good look at YOUR Birth Certificate, Orange Man?"), I don't want to be told "he's the President" by people who think they're being reasonable, and that I'm just being a sore loser.
I protest when it's necessary. And it's become necessary.

The old adage about Democracy being like sausage may be true, even if it's getting the quote wrong, but it's not the point. Democracy is a process, and like many processes, it's not about the final product, it's about how you get there. Do you remember when you gave an answer in math class, and the teacher said, "how did you come up with that answer?" You were flummoxed. Was the answer right? Or wasn't it?
Your teacher didn't let on, because she wanted to know if you had the process right. Perhaps you had the right answer, but do you know why?
On in the words of my science friends, it is replicable?

Do we know how we got here? Do we understand how the people of the United States elected an Orange Insecure Man who is too busy telling people what he learned in the secure briefing this morning to be bothered to understand why he can't do that?
Does it matter?
I wrote this in the morning of May 16th. We got there by the end of the day.

The day before I wrote this, Representative Al Green called for The Ego's impeachment.

I don't care that this is hardly a a "personal essay," this is political preaching. I don't care. We are in a historically significant moment.

We need to stand up and be counted.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bill of Impeachment

A Bill of Impeachment may be introduced in the House of Representatives by the House Judiciary Committee. I'm afraid we're there now. Here is a list of Representatives on the House Judiciary Committee. I provide links to the Representatives' email me page on their names. I provide a link to a map of where their district is in case you need it.

If you don't feel like wading through all of this, go to the House of Representatives' website and type in your zip code. Then look for his or her name on this list.

I've done this because I find the House Judiciary Committee's webpage not particularly user-friendly, if the purpose of the webpage is to help citizens communicate with their Representatives.

First: The Majority Party

Bob Goodlatte from Virginia's Sixth Congressional District.

Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin's Fifth Congressional District.

Lamar Smith from Texas' 21st district. His email me site advises you to type in your zip code to see if he cares what you think, I mean, to check if Lamar Smith represents you.

Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio's First Congressional District. If you type in your zip code in his Contact Me site, it will inform you if he represents you.

Representative Darrell Issa represents California's 49th Congressional District.

Representative Steve King from Iowa's Fourth District. His "email me" site will tell you if he represents you or not.

Representative Trent Franks' website indicates that he is from Arizona's Eighth District, and his website will tell you if he represents you.

Representative Louie Gomert from the First district of Texas.

Representative Jim Jordan's email me site has a Zip Code look-up feature to see if he represents you. He represents Ohio's Fourth District.

Representative Ted Poe from the Second District of Texas.

Representative Jason Chaffetz from Utah's Third Congressional District.

Representative Tom Marino from Pennsylvania's Tenth Congressional District.

Representative Trey Gowdy will allow you to contact him using Facebook or email. He represents the Fourth District of South Carolina.

Representative Raul Labrador represents the First District of Idaho.

Representative Doug Collins hails from the Ninth District of Georgia.

Representative Ron DeSantis represents Florida's Sixth District.

Representative Ken Buck comes from Colorado's Fourth District.

Representative John Ratcliffe represents Texas' Fourth District.

Representative Martha Roby comes from the Second of Alabama.

Representative Matt Gaetz represents the First District of Florida.

Representative Mike Johnson hails from the Fourth District of Louisiana.

Representative Andy Biggs comes from the Fifth District of Arizona.

The Minority Party:

Representative John Conyers from the 13th District of Michigan. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Jerrold Nadler from New York State's 10th District. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Zoe Lofgren represents California's 19th District. Her "contact me" site will show you if you live in her district.

Representative Shirley Jackson Lee comes from the 18th District of Texas. Her "contact me" site will show you if you live in her district.

Representative Steve Cohen hails from Tennesee's Ninth District.

Representative Hank Johnson represents Georgia's Fourth Congressional District. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Ted Deutch comes from Florida's 22nd District.

Representative Luis Guttierez represents the Fourth Congressional District of Illinois. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Karen Bass hails from the 37th District of California. Her "contact me" site will show you if you live in her district.

Congressman Cedric Richmond comes from the Second District of Louisiana. His His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries represents the Eighth Congressional District of New York. His His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative David Cicilline represents the First District of Rhode Island. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Eric Swalwell hails from the 15th District of California. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Ted Liu comes from California's 33rd Congressional District. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Jamie Raskin represents Maryland's Eighth District. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Representative Pramila Jayapal hails from Washington's Seventh Congressional District. Her "contact me" site will show you if you live in her district.

Representative Brad Schneider comes from the Tenth District of Illinois. His "contact me" site will show you if you are in his district.

Living History?

Living History is the title of Hillary Clinton's memoir. I confess I've never read it. It's in the list of books I think I "should" read, like I should eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables ever day.

It's odd to think about my life in a historical perspective, though, because there are times when I realize that what's happening right now is important, no, significant, to the rest of the world. How I respond to it demands careful thought.
How do you stay informed? Of the two hundred countries in the world right now, which one is experiencing something that could go so very wrong and take the rest of the world with it? Does anyone know until it starts happening?

The Great Man Theory of history posits (I think) that the people who shape our world are different from you and me. They have vision, ideals, they make the world happen the way they want to. It's an idea that separates the Leaders from the Followers. The problem is it's bullshit. Any one of us can suddenly become a leader, you just have to find your group. And that's not necessarily a good thing, because some of us certainly shouldn't become leaders. Think of Donald Trump, who is going crazy right now.
He's been protected from his worst judgments all his life. There's always been somebody to bail him out, a bankruptcy rule to save him, a woman to tell him how wonderful he is, and now he's on his own and his people (Mike Pence, Kelly Anne Conway, etc) are beginning to wonder what sort of mistake they made picking him as their leader. And the news is talking about how his days should be numbered.

We all knew Trump was a joke. Or thought we did. The video of him winning the election shows him looking like a deer caught in the headlights. His next actions proved that he had no idea what he had gotten himself into. Putting up ads on the web recruiting the best people? Really?

Stay informed. Read the papers. This is the advice I give myself.

And it's all getting too much. He's lying all the time, or maybe he doesn't quite understand what the truth is anyway. I can't tell what's going on in Trump's head and it's fascinating because I have to know.
I can't spend my whole life paying attention to...what exactly is this? Is this the crumbling of the American Empire? Or the crumbling of our Democratic System?
Is the Government (shorthand for our elected officials) going to realize that it serves a system that is more important than party? I think it will, and I'm waiting for something big to happen.

And it's burning me out.
I look for actions to take. I can't get through to my Senators. Their voice mailbox is full.
Don't Panic.
And I must take a step back. I can't do everything, and I shouldn't try to. But I must do something.

And I want to know I was on the right side when it all comes down.

I'm off to another march.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


Labored breathing....you think you know what it means. It means heavy breathing that feels like you're working at it, working at something that should come naturally.
When you've run too far too fast, that's labored breathing. Your breath after the orgasm that just keeps coming and coming has gone, that's labored breathing. But when your father's lungs are so tired and worn and each breath feels like it's more work than he's up for, and he's not even talking anymore, that's when you know what labored breathing is.
It's work.
And I am tired of thinking about my father's death. I am tired of focusing on it...no, not focusing on it, but having it, like a magnet with pins, draw me back to it, as though somewhere I think I'll forget about it.
I won't forget. I was there.
The second missed birthday was two weeks ago. Facebook forgot to remind me, which means that somehow Mother programmed it to stop doing that. Fuck Rolaids. Facebook's inattentiveness spells relief.

Two days after the missed birthday a bomb startled the voice into silence and as I opened my eyes in my bedroom I realized that thunder had woken me from a dream.

A bomb startled the voice into silence and as I opened my eyes in my bedroom I realized that thunder had woken me from a dream.
I could not hear the rain hitting my window. All I could see was light flashing outside, with booms coming closer.

Flash! Boom! Flash! Boom! FLASH! BOOM!!

Please tell me this is just a rainstorm. I can't hear the rain.
Just tell me this is a rainstorm. It's too early and I can't quite seen the clock. I don't want to sit up and focus to learn what time it is.
Does it matter what time the bomb is dropped?
Will it drop in the morning?
North Korea doesn't have enough airplanes that could get a bomb over here. Probably not even enough...I do know that a missile is sent in a bomb that is shipped over here and it is THAT that North Korea doesn't have, though North Korea does seem to have Nukes now, and I don't know how many people in North America are happy about that. I'm not too happy about it, but I take some comfort in that fact when I realize that it is four in the morning and the flashes and booms have neither stopped nor quieted.
I get up. I hope it's raining. I don't know why I can't hear rain drops against my window, but I can't. I've heard dry thunder, but it's not common in New England. Yes, New York City IS New England. While it does not resemble any of the stereotypes of New Englanders, New *York* State is certainly part of *New* England.

It's not raining. It's not even light outside. The lightning does brighten the sky, but it does not signal dawn. The dawn will creep into the night, infesting it along the horizon. The night heals the day every evening at a slightly different time, and the dawn breaks the day into the night as a confused robber might return the jewelry she stole the day before. The times might change, slightly, but it happens every day.

We rely on time to keep marking our lives, even after our loved ones are gone. Time obliges, without judgement or fanfare.

Time will keep on after we have all finished our own labored breathing. Other creatures will live and die and we won't be here to notice or care. The earth will continue, until it, too, dies.

We haven't seen a death that big yet. Unless we figure out where to go before it happens, we won't witness Earth's death either.

Perhaps we should take comfort in that, too.